Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Top Premier League midweek storylines

Leave a comment

Five matches, three days, three match days.

Wild stuff; Yes, only in the Premier League can you get Chelsea’s Matchday 27 game on the same day Spurs play its Matchday 31, and Man City starts Matchday 33.

[ MORE: Arsenal tops Newcastle ]

The Premier League provides plenty of entertainment at midweek thanks to rescheduled matches from cup play, and each will put its own spin on the chase for places in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League.

Will Fulham join Huddersfield Town in the Championship?
Watford v. Fulham, 2:45 p.m. ET Tuesday on NBC Sports Gold, online via NBCSports.com

The second of three relegation spots could be sealed if the visitors cannot claim all three points (though even one would be close to enough given Fulham’s dreadful minus-43 goal differential). And its hosts won’t be sleepwalking, as Watford knows it can lay a solid claim to 7th should it win and Wolves not manage full points against Manchester United.

Red Devils, Wolves chase season goals
Wolves v. Manchester United, 2:45 p.m. ET Tuesday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com

It’s fifth versus seventh, though 17 points separate the Red Devils from host Wolves. Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men have wasted several chances to put a stranglehold on 7th, and may well be looking up at Watford by the close of business Tuesday. As for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United, they’ll want to reclaim third place before Spurs and Chelsea play 22 hours later.

Spurs FINALLY open their new stadium with a London Derby
Tottenham Hotspur v. Crystal Palace, 2:45 p.m. ET Wednesday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com

First the U-18s got their chance under Mauricio Pochettino‘s watchful eye, then the alums led by Robbie Keane and Jurgen Klinsmann. Now Spurs first teamers get their first 90 minutes on the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium turf with a visit from a Crystal Palace team which likes to entertain.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Can Man City clinch the goal differential tiebreaker on Wednesday?
Manchester City v. Cardiff City, 2:45 p.m. ET Wednesday on NBC Sports Gold, online via NBCSports.com

After getting hosed by a lack of VAR at the weekend, Neil Warnock‘s Cardiff City gets the reward of a visit to the Etihad Stadium. Warnock has hinted that he could go youth heavy, and Pep Guardiola will be licking his lips at the thought of using the club’s match-in-hand on Liverpool to expand City’s 7-goal advantage in differential should the title chase come down to tiebreakers. A win puts City back atop the PL table with six matches each to play.

Chelsea hopes for season sweep of Brighton, Top Four jump
Chelsea v. Brighton and Hove Albion, 2:45 p.m. ET Wednesday on NBC Sports Gold, online via NBCSports.com

Brighton beat Chelsea 2-1 in the sides’ first meeting… back in the 1933 FA Cup. A 1-1 draw followed in the 1967 versions of the same tournament, and it’s since been all Chelsea. Desperate Brighton will hope it’s overdue for a second win when it meets the Blues for the 12th time and makes up its match-in-hand on 18th place Cardiff City.

Guardiola hails “incredibly positive,” healthy De Bruyne

Photo by Yifan Ding/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A variety of injuries derailed Kevin De Bruyne‘s 2018-19 season at Manchester City, as the prolific Belgian playmaker was held to just two goals and two assists in Premier League play.

[ RECAP: Wolves top Man City ]

That season came on the heels of a long World Cup run with Belgium, and Pep Guardiola thinks a summer off can go a long way toward helping De Bruyne reproduce the form that led City to 14 goals and 35 assists over the previous two PL campaigns.

De Bruyne was fantastic on Saturday as City lost to Wolves in penalties at the PL Asia Trophy. Guardiola is salivating after winning the league mostly without De Bruyne.

From The Manchester Evening News:

“Last season he didn’t have holiday but he has had more time to rest and he came back like he did two seasons ago. Hopefully he can keep his level.

“He’s incredibly positive in his mind and his quality speaks for itself. He made an incredible first half, really good.”

De Bruyne was rarely at full speed last season, as Bernardo Silva was one of many to step up in his stead. City drew Liverpool and lost to Chelsea while De Bruyne was out.

In other words, top-end De Bruyne means more silverware for City.

Zidane quizzed on Pogba: ‘We know what we want to do’

AP Photo/Rui Vieira
Leave a comment

Zinedine Zidane’s open flirtation with Paul Pogba continues, as the Real Madrid manager was asked about Manchester United’s star midfielder again on Saturday.

“We need to respect everybody, but the only thing I can say from the club is we know what we want to do,” Zidane said. “Something could happen before the end of August. We could have some changes.”

[ MORE: Wolves beat Man City in pens ]

On paper the purchase of Pogba makes sense to reloading Real, but the problem here is the sheer amount of paper the Madrid side has spent on players this season.

While sales of James Rodriguez, Dani Ceballos, and Gareth Bale could put Real in okay position regarding Financial Fair Play, buying Pogba would move the needle hard in the other direction considering the club has bought Ferland Mendy, Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, Luka Jovic, and Rodrygo.

Plus, Florentino Perez likes to buy only one Galactico per transfer session, and Hazard is undoubtedly this summer’s model.

That said, Real has assets that United could use in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s overhaul of the Old Trafford set.

UEFA gives partial stadium bans to Bulgaria, Romania for fan racism

UEFA
Leave a comment

NYON, Switzerland (AP) Bulgaria will have to close part of its national stadium for European Championship qualifiers against England and the Czech Republic because of fan racism.

UEFA issued the order, saying Bulgarian fans were racially abusive during a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic and a 3-2 loss to Kosovo last month.

Bulgaria hosts England on Oct. 14 and the Czech Republic on Nov. 17.

Romania has also been ordered to close part of its home stadium for a future under-21 game after UEFA ruled its fans behaved in a racist manner during the European under-21 championship last month.

Another racism case against Latvia was dropped.

UEFA also handed out various fines to Romania, Ukraine, and Greece for rowdy behavior by fans.

Transfer rumor roundup: Everton join Zaha chase; Matuidi to Man Utd?

Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet  to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.

Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.


Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.

Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.


Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.